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US NATO representative: Allies united in Ukraine's defense
06:00 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The Defense Department is reviewing 1,300 proposals from 800 companies for innovative new weapons and commercial capabilities they may be able to develop and produce for Ukraine to use in its fight against Russia’s invasion of the country, a defense official told CNN on Thursday.

The Pentagon hopes to make decisions on which proposals it wants to pursue in the coming weeks – and which ones could potentially be used in the future by the US military.

The proposals, requested by the department, center around key areas, including weapons capabilities for air defense, anti-armor, anti-personnel, coastal defense, anti-tank, unmanned aerial systems, counter battery and secure communications that have been identified by the Ukrainians as key military needs.

They were sought as part of a broad initiative by the Defense Department to “fulfill Ukraine’s priority security assistance requests,” according to the original solicitation for ideas sent to industry. The goal is to get ideas and information in hand to speed up production and build more capacity across the industrial base since it’s now widely viewed that the US and its allies are likely to be supporting Ukraine long after their own existing weapons stockpiles run out.

This comes as the Pentagon continues its weapons transfers that have amounted to billions of dollars. On Thursday, President Joe Biden said the US will soon announce another $800 million in new aid, including air defense systems and offensive weapons. So far, the US has committed $6.1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the February 24 invasion of the country by Russia.

The US has been working with more than 50 other nations to see what weapons they can offer. The preference has been for those nations to provide Russian-made weapons in their arsenals because Ukraine’s forces are familiar with those systems and would not need training. But as the war has gone on, more advanced weapons have been provided, and Ukrainian forces have been trained on Western weapons systems in nearby countries

The Defense Department plan for potential new production contracts reflects the urgency of the military situation, as it looks for potential deliveries anywhere from less than 30 days to more than six months. The department is also asking that companies detail what type of air, land or sea platform their weapon might be deployed on, and if they already have something in production.

“In particular, the Department is exploring options which would accelerate production and build more capacity across the industrial base for weapons and equipment that can be rapidly exported, deployed with minimal training, and that are proven effective in the battlefield,” the Defense Department said in its solicitation to industry for ideas.

The effort comes as a follow-up to a Pentagon meeting earlier this year with eight of the largest defense contractors, as well as approval by Congress for purchasing contracts for weapons in addition to the ongoing drawdown and transfer of systems from the US military stockpile.

The Pentagon has put in place a detailed bureaucratic structure to assess Ukraine’s needs and to try to accelerate supplying them. A new “senior Integration group” of senior official reviews Ukraine’s latest operational needs.

The funding could potentially come from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is a pot of nearly $1 billion for contracting for weapons for Ukraine. Nearly $240 million has been contracted for in areas ranging from the Switchblade drone to secure communications devices.